An Illinois bill that sought to empower average people to file lawsuits against tech companies for recording them without their knowledge via microphone-enabled devices was defanged this week after lobbying from trade associations representing Silicon Valley giants.
On Wednesday, the Illinois State Senate passed the Keep Internet Devices Safe Act, a bill that would ban manufacturers of devices that can record audio from doing so remotely without disclosing it to the customer. But after lobbying from trade associations that represent the interests of Google, Amazon—makers of the microphone-enabled Google Home and Alexa smart speakers, respectively—and Microsoft, among other companies, the interests of big tech won out.
In the bill’s original form, users could file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s office that could lead to penalties of up to $50,000. But after technology trade associations, led by the Internet Association objected, claimed that the state’s definition of a “digital device” was too broad, and that the Act would lead to “private litigation which can lead to frivolous class action litigation,” the bill was scaled back.
In its current, neutered form, the bill provides exclusive authority to the Attorney General to enforce the Act, which means regular citizens won’t be able to bring forward a case regarding tech giants recording them in their homes.
Matt Stoller, a research fellow at Open Markets Institute, an anti-monopoly advocacy group, shared the lobbying groups’ statements on Twitter.